Quality Basics 4: The Interpretation

Japanese chef passing tea qualification test in Hong Kong

Renowned chef Noboru Ishii preparing tea for customers during a qualification test in Hong Kong for Chinese tea advocacy

Unlike wine, which can be consumed quite directly pouring from a bottle, tea has to be prepared before consumption. It is therefore the art of infusion that completes the quality of a tea. A little more understanding of a selection’s material nature helps tremendously how one can best interpret the quality possibilities of the dried leaves.

in the hand of the drinker

This is particularly true when one is using a finer tea. I have seen many people, including experienced traders and serious hobbyists, wasting the true quality of a fine product simply because they have mistreated the tea.

In fact, tea-making is not rocket science and once you give it a tiny bit of your mind, mastering it is as simple as cooking a vegetable. (Again, there are many different types of vegetables each of a different material nature) The only important thing is to get rid of habitual pre-conceptions to try to understand the natures of the elements as we shall discuss in the infusion section.

Primary school children infusing and tasting tea

Primary school children infusing and tasting tea in a special program in one of my teabars in HK

now is the time

Although a fine tea takes as much mastery and work to produce as a fine wine, it has not yet achieved the social status of the latter, so the price one pays for these fine leaves for each cup of tea is still very affordable. Mostly it is the price of a pop or less, unless you are already so discriminatory for only the most exclusive qualities, when each cup is still many times less than a glass of wine of comparable grade. The reader has to be alerted though, that with the economic uprise of the Chinese population, fine teas — particularly those from China and Taiwan — as a grocery category, is going to gain status and thus a substantial rise in demand. Before this is happening in a phenomenal scale, it is a great opportunity to invest in its learning and really know what you will be buying before the price rises to a reasonable level for the producers and the traders.

More than any other beverages, tea is also a drink for health. Scientists have hailed tea as the most potent health drink. Researches conducted recently have focused in certain known tea substances such as L-theanine, tea polyphenols and other flavanols. They have found them to be exceptionally effective in combating various diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular problems. There is still much understanding needed for the synergic effects of tea substances and quality of the leaves plays a key role. However, there are still a large number of substances in various kinds of tea that await studies. For example, statin, a substance that fights cholesterol bad effects, is found in Puer tea, together with a few other things. People have always said that Puer is the tea to drink after greasy meals so as to protect one’s health, now we are beginning to find scientific clues.

In any extent, fine tea is an epicurean pursuit in every dimension and an unparalleled all time healthy drink.

tea quality: • the plant • the process • the myths of grades • the interpretation

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